If you've had trouble tolerating currently available oral birth control, a new option may be the answer. The FDA recently approved a new combined oral contraceptive called Nextstellis. It contains two ingredients: drospirenone (a progestin) and estetrol (an estrogen). Nextstellis is unique as its estrogen component — estetrol — is a new type of estrogen. In fact, it is the first new estrogen to be FDA-approved in about 50 years!

All oral birth control measures come with a risk of side effects, and the potential side effects of Nextstellis are similar to those of other combined oral contraceptives, including mood disturbances, bleeding irregularities, dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramping), headache, and breast symptoms including breast discomfort or breast tenderness.

The good news is that these side effects will often go away after taking the medication for a couple of months as the body adjusts to the different hormonal levels. Nextstellis does also have a risk of blood clots that is similar to other combined oral contraceptives. It should not be used in women over the age of 35 who smoke due to increased clot and cardiovascular risk.

Deciding on a birth control method is a very personal choice, and luckily there are quite a few combined oral contraceptives available today. However, most contain ethinyl estradiol as the estrogen component, which might prove limiting for some women experiencing side effects. Since Nextstellis' estrogen component is different, it could potentially be an option for those who haven't been able to tolerate birth control containing ethinyl estradiol.

Lexie Powell is an academic fellow at the Department of Pharmacology at the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences based in Spokane.

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